The Cooperative Research Centres Association is a not-for-profit organisation operating to promote the pursuit of science, particularly through the Australian Government’s CRC Program.

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Get ready to work with German Innovation Clusters

In December, the German Government will make a call for applications to further internationalise its Leading-Edge Clusters. Now is the time to act if you would like to look at partnering with some of the world’s leading applied research organisations.

The CRC Association recently participated in the Connecting Australian and European Science and Innovation Excellence (CAESIE) tour and is working with the DLR Project Management Agency to match up any interested CRC Association members with their German counterparts. Getting to know potential German partners over the next month or two will allow them to include you in their proposals to the German Government.

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Pyne Appointed Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science

Newly appointed Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull, has announced his Cabinet reshuffle over the weekend with a few significant changes.

The Hon Christopher Pyne, former Minister for Education and Training, has been appointed as the new Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. Minister Macfarlane, former Minister for Industry and Science, will move to the backbench. It would appear the portfolio has stayed the same – minus a minor change to its title – with research remaining in the Education Portfolio under the Hon Simon Birmingham.

Minister Pyne will be supported by Assistant Minister for Innovation, the Hon Wyatt Roy, and the Hon Karen Andrews as Assistant Minister for Science.

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Research training still a cause for concern

Tony Peacock, CRC Association

Research training in Australia is once again under review, with the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) due to report to the Minister for Education in March 2016 (Terms of Reference here). CRCs fund around 5% of Australia’s PhD students and therefore have an intense interest in this issue. In fact, in the 25 years of the CRC Programme, an industry-oriented PhD stream has been a common goal of every single CRC. In the early days of the CRC Programme, it may have been sufficient to add some communications training and a seminar or two on intellectual property. Nowadays, the bar has been raised, with all responsible universities and supervisors ensuring that PhD students are well grounded in scientific writing, grant applications, public speaking, intellectual property recognition and management and more.

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Block grants, CRC guidelines and Research Training all under review

The CRC Association is busy consulting with various government groups on a number of current reviews. The Miles Review of the Cooperative Research Centres is completed and adopted as government policy, but the detail of the new CRC and CRC-Project guidelines are yet to be finalised. Consultation meetings were held in Brisbane last week, Sydney yesterday and continue around the country this week and next.

The biggest changes in the CRC Programme likely to result from the Miles Review and subsequent new guidelines come in several areas:

  • Two major shifts in emphasis: (1) less thinking about funding of a CRC itself to funding of a major challenge or opportunity, with the CRC merely as the vehicle for the collaborative group to tackle the challenge; and (2) a total outcomes focus – the CRC Programme has always had a strong emphasis on producing impacts and the Impact Tool used in the application process is one way of predicting, monitoring and measuring outcomes. But the new guidelines and Advisory Committee is likely to take the focus on outcomes to a whole new level.
  •  A greater fit with overall strategic direction for science and innovation. Less about the Miles Review and more about the government’s push to have a more strategic basis for science policy in general, with the CRC Programme positioned as a key means of increasing collaboration between industry and universities and for bringing science into the heart of industry policy. In practical terms, this means CRCs must relate to the work of the Industry Growth Centres and the CRC Advisory Committee nows falls within the remit of Innovation Australia. CRCs will need to contribute to the national innovation plan.
  •  CRC-Ps are a completely new. The Miles Review outlined a vision for CRC-Projects, being about 3 years and $3 million, available 3 times a year and enabling more SMEs easier participation in the CRC Programme. Now that broad brush must come together in actual guidelines for funding. No decisions have been made on whether CRC-Ps might make up 5% of programme funds or 50% – all these issues are up for grabs.

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Professor Brien Holden passes away

Members of the CRC community will be shocked and deeply saddened to learn that the CEO of the Vision CRC, Professor Brien Holden OAM, passed away on Monday night.

Brien was a very great Australian and a great world citizen who had improved the sight of many millions of people. His dedication to better vision for the poorest people on earth was just one of the many facets of a remarkable person. He was also a great scientist, leader, businessman and mentor.

The Vision Cooperative Research Centre formally ended its tenure as a CRC just four weeks ago. Vision CRC superceded the Cooperative Research Centre for Eye Research and Technology (CRCERT), which was established in 1991 as one of the first 15 CRCs. It has been a phenomenal success story in every sense. With research partners UNSW and the CSIRO, the CRC developed and commercialised the Focus Night & Day™ contact lenses which dominate the world market and brought in around a quarter of a billion dollars in royalties to the CRC.

The Institute for Eye Research at the University of New South Wales was renamed the Brien Holden Vision Institute in March 2010 and Brien Holden Vision subsidiaries were set up to try to capture more of the commercialisation benefits of research.

“Brien Holden was probably the first CEO of another CRC I met when I attended my first CRC Association Conference in Perth in 2001” said Tony Peacock, CEO of the CRC Association. “I immediately liked Brien and we became good friends over the next 15 years, even though I might only see or talk to him briefly a few times a year”.

“To me, Brien represented the very best of what science can achieve. He brought together teams to crack hard issues. He took the research through the huge challenge of commercialisation. He was always looking for new opportunities and he poured the benefits of his research and commercialisation back into the least fortunate people in society. There is no one I respected more”.

CRC Association News was already set to lead with another incredible story from the Vision CRC, with Brien Holden Vision Institute teaming up with U2 singer, Bono, to deliver vision improvements in Africa. Read that story below.

The CRC Association extends its very deep sympathy to Brien’s family and colleagues.

The Brien Holden Vision Institute has issued a press release. Read it here.